Preaching and painting came together in a recent sermon series at Second Christian Reformed Church in Grand Haven, Mich. The latest exhibit at the church’s Atrium Gallery, “The Art of Water: Exploring the Biblical Theme of Water as a Cosmic Force, as a Source of Life, as a Cleansing Agent,” served as the inspiration for Second’s pastor, Laura de Jong, who integrated art with her weekly messages. Over the gallery’s fourteen years, this is the first time an exhibit has been featured in a sermon series.
Using various pieces from the exhibit as a backdrop, de Jong preached five sermons on the water theme. “I wanted to present a variety of stories in which water plays different roles,” she said of her sermon-planning process. “Water can give life, it can destroy life, it can be dried up, it can be poured out. So I chose different kinds of texts from throughout Scripture—the Baptism of Jesus, the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, Jesus walking on Water, Psalm 1, and Ezekiel 47. In some cases water plays a significant role.”
“The Art of Water” displays over 40 pieces in a variety of media from 24 artists, including Betsy Steele Halstead, Robin Jensen, and Julie Quinn. Several artists included Scripture passages with their pieces. Some artists created works especially for this exhibit, such as Matt Plescher, whose painting “The River from the Temple” was based on Ezekiel 47.
During each sermon, de Jong projected a single piece of artwork in the sanctuary. “I don't often reference it in the sermon, but as a visual learner myself, it gives people something to meditate on during the sermon, and adds an extra layer of meaning or significance to what I'm saying,” she said. “In some cases, the art was very specific. We have a piece by Agnes Fisher, who goes to Second, called ‘Jesus Walked on Water and Calmed the Storm.’ That was a clear choice for that sermon. But for Psalm 1 I chose a photograph of Lake Michigan by Marc Hoeksema in which the water is bubbling up against the sun—it just looks life giving.”
The gallery, which shows three to four exhibits a year, is open for visitors weekdays during church office hours. Special arrangements can be made for those who wish to come at other times.